By Victoria Mejicanos and Christie Counts, May 9, 2023
Construction on Cal Poly Pomona’s campus led to a false alarm of a shooter or active assailant. Tues., April 27 in the afternoon, spooking a jittery campus community and raising concern about the lack of communication from UPD.
An email sent by UPD stated at 12:27 p.m. they received a report of possible gunshots near Building 94. There was an immediate response with officers dispatched and on scene by 12:31 p.m. After careful inspection the area was determined safe, and the noise was due to a jack hammer being used for construction in between the buildings. Campus was determined secure by 12:37 p.m.
Many students were not notified of the alleged threat until a mass email was sent at 3:11 p.m. stating the campus was secure and there was no threat to public safety.
Students who witnessed police cars driving onto and around campus around the time of the call were alarmed and confused. Students walking to their next class about to pass through building 6 and 94 watched and were stopped when officers surrounded and infiltrated the buildings with what they described as assault-style rifles.
Eliza Edmundson, an English education student, was amongst a group outside building 94 and 6 waiting to walk to their next class.
“I feel like the response was quick, it was called in and in less than 10 minutes they were already on campus and prepared, so that is a little bit reassuring in that sense,” said Edmundson. “But at the same time, it was unclear what was going on, people were just walking around, there wasn’t any direction of where people should go, they just showed up and surrounded building 94.”
Other students who observed officers among campus looked to social media to figure out what was occurring on campus. On the CPP Reddit thread students mentioned their building was on lockdown, while the rest of the student body remained unaware or confused but still walked to their classrooms.
Following the incident, an email was sent April 28 from CPP’s University President Soraya M. Coley, who acknowledged the lack of clear communication.
“I regret and apologize that we fell short in communicating the circumstances to you in a prompt and clear manner, which made an alarming experience worse for many. While we did send ‘all clear’ messages by social media and email, we were not timely or thorough enough in our communication during and after the event,” Coley wrote.
After the incident social media post informing people campus was safe and clear of any threats was posted by the UPD Instagram account, which has close to 1,600 followers.
According to CPP’s Facts and Figures website, approximately 29,000 students currently attend CPP, excluding staff.
Both Dinh and Rappaport confirmed expectations and protocols have changed since the incident. Unconfirmed incidents will now be shared, and immediately after a scene is deemed secure an all-clear message will be sent.
“We understand and we’ve heard what the community wants,” Dinh said. “Now our focus is going to be on getting information out there whether its confirmed or not, which is atypical.”
Chief Communications Officer, Amon Rappaport explained the common practice when communicating with the student body in an unconfirmed emergency.
“It hasn’t been common law enforcement practice to send safety alerts for unconfirmed or ultimately false alarm incidents because you want people to take safety alerts seriously,” said Rappaport. “As of that Tuesday our practice at the time was not to use that safety alert system for such a case, we now recognize that expectations have changed given the environment we’re in. We hear that loud and clear, and that’s why we are making some changes to how we deploy the emergency alert system.”
In previous interviews conducted by The Poly Post for an article on active shooter preparation, both the Office of Emergency Management and UPD stated there would be direct link of communication with the campus community during the event of an active shooter.
UPD Officer Jose Fonseca stated there was a Safety Alert System managed by the Office of Emergency Management that would allow them to communicate through multiple methods such as text, email and phone call. He also said an alert would be visible on all CPP desktops and screens across campus.
“You’ll find out,” Fonseca said. “You’ll get a notice basically through any of those methods.”
Interim Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Arlett Carmona confirmed students would be notified through these methods, and the system is tested annually.
“All of the students are automatically subscribed or enrolled,” Carmona said. “So, you’ll automatically get that notification. You’ll also get the notification to your university email. “
In a follow-up interview addressing the incident, Rappaport stated because the incident was unconfirmed, the Safety Alert System was not used.
“It was unconfirmed initially and then confirmed to be a false alarm, so it was not an active shooter,” Rappaport said.
UPD Chief Linh Dinh spoke about UPD response, and how they confirmed it was a false alarm.
“Once they arrived on scene, nothing was out of the ordinary. It already did not seem like it was an active shooter situation,” Dinh said. “However, they did their due diligence and were able to make contact with the caller.”
Students can follow UPD on Instagram to receive regular updates about campus safety and training. The CSU System also has a centralized Run Hide Fight procedure with a video of how to address an active shooter situation should it occur.
Feature image courtesy of Diego Rodriguez
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